How to Be An Opposition Party

It is too bad Kerry is not President Elect, but I like what I read in this email:Regardless of the outcome of this election, once all the votes are counted -- and they will be counted -- we will continue to challenge this administration. This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm.

I will fight for a national standard for federal elections that has both transparency and accountability in our voting system. It's unacceptable in the United States that people still don't have full confidence in the integrity of the voting process.

I ask you to join me in this cause.

And we must fight not only against George Bush's extreme policies -- we must also uphold our own values. This is why on the first day Congress is in session next year, I will introduce a bill to provide every child in America with health insurance. And, with your help, that legislation will be accompanied by the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

There are more than eight million uninsured children in our nation. That's eight million reasons for us to stay together and fight for a new direction. It is a disgrace that in the wealthiest nation on earth, eight million children go without health insurance.

Normally, a member of the Senate will first approach other senators and ask them to co-sponsor a bill before it is introduced -- instead, I am turning to you. Imagine the power of a bill co-sponsored by hundreds of thousands of Americans being presented on the floor of the United States Senate. You can make it happen. Sign our "Every Child Protected" pledge today and forward it to your family, friends, and neighbors:

Demanding that every vote is counted. Demanding massive election reform. Taking your opposition policies directly to the people. This is very encouraging.

Sign the petition here.


In the wake of the campaign, there has been some astute talk about the way the Democratic netroots unfortunately came to be used as glorified ATM machines. Jakob Nielsen has the most cogent analysis of this problem (emphasis mine): Although I don't actually claim that Bush won because of usability, I do think that wise use of email newsletters contributed to his victory. I analyzed the email newsletters sent out by both candidates in the week prior to the election. The predominant theme of each message was distributed as follows:
                       Bush     Kerry
Give Money               8%       57%
Get Out the Vote        38%       29%
Issues/Events           54%       14%
(I didn't count the message each candidate sent on or just before Election Day asking recipients for their vote.)

As this analysis shows, Kerry supporters were bombarded by repeated fundraising requests, to the extent that many of them probably tuned out the newsletter in the final critical days. Although the Internet is great for collecting money from the masses, there is a limit. Kerry exceeded it.

Bush sent more messages than Kerry asking supporters to get other voters to go to the polls and vote for him. This is a more appropriate use of the newsletter medium because it connects emotionally with subscribers. Being treated as an active participant in the civics process is more motivating than being regarded as an open wallet.

The netroots is at its best when it creates an emotional connection with individual progressives, allows them to connect to other like-minded people, and provides them a forum where they can become active participants in the process. Frankly, this is politics at its best, and it is essential for us to do this if we are going to grow the party nationwide. Personally, beyond the fundraising insanity and strange ossification that began in the Dean campaign near the end of September 2003, the best experiences I had in this election cycle came from Dean Meetups from May to September of 2003. This is also the time period when Dean went from being more or less an asterisk to become the frontrunner. Here is a quick list of just some of the different things we did in Philly for Dean during those five months:

  • Wrote our first letters to Iowa and New Hampshire.

  • Organized rallies, including a big one for 4,000 people on August 11, 2003, which at the time was the largest rally of the campaign.

  • Collectively developed a Philly 4 Dean website.

  • Began organizing trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and Delaware.

  • Held our first House parties.

  • Tabled at least fifteen different event in the area.

  • Took signing up more people to the email list as our main organizing goal.
These were the great days, the creative days, the formative days. All of these activities, very few of which were connected to fundraising, brought us all personally into the campaign. We all felt like we were making a difference, and certainly not just when a bat went up on the website. Fundraising was just one of many activities we were involved in. Best of all, because these events were organized around social Meetups, they all involved meeting new people and making new friends. We were not just involved in the campaign, we were forming a new, local progressive activist organization. It was the height of excitement. Eventually, the addition of the "Get Local" link on Blog for America (one of the best things the campaign did in late September and afterward) brought this activity to even greater heights, as we were all able to become mini-organizers of small campaign events of our own creation. I personally helped organize four separate trips to Delaware before the primary there using the Get Local link. It wsa truly exciting stuff.

For me, the most fulfilling, and invigorating, aspect of the netroots to date has definitely been Meetups and the self-organized mini-Meetups on the Get Local section of Blog for America. This why I found it so sad when, sometime around June, the Kerry campaign decided to discontinue their utilization of the tremendous potential of Meetups. Zephyr Teachout has more on this:

One telling--and I think tragic--clue to this basic approach was that no major group used Meetup. Meetup is an imperfect tool, but it's by far the best tool I've ever seen for creating continuous local political communities.

The Kerry campaign stopped telling people to use Meetup in late spring and stopped listing it on their website. By late summer, it was literally impossible to find a reference to Meetup on The Bush campaign, likewise, briefly flirted with using Meetup and then quickly stopped. While Meetups dedicated to both candidates continued to exist, their respective monthly meeting numbers stopped growing, or at best merely inched forward.

By contrast, in the Dean campaign we noticed a clear relationship between our campaign website and our Meetup numbers. Every time the Meetup icon dropped below the top part of the screen, our Meetup growth dropped in half. Every time we sent an email asking people to sign up for Meetups, growth spiked significantly. It's obvious, but really critical to recognize that Meetups that are not encouraged by their candidate/group will not grow.

These past months, I spoke to many Kerry Meetup attendees who didn't know what they should be doing to effectively help the campaign. Some ended up working for other groups. Kerry's Meetup numbers never topped 130,000. With nearly three million online supporters, they could easily have reached a million members, if not more, and half a million regular attendees. The Dean campaign ended with 160,000 Meetup members and 1,000 regular Meetups. Kerry could have had a Meetup in every county in America if he wanted to.

But not without some central leadership. An unbidden Meetup group--i.e. one that is running on its own momentum with little input from campaign HQ and little lateral contact with its cousins--is less likely to organize a campaign to write letters to the editor about the war, say, if they don't know whether the Meetup 10 miles away is doing the same thing, something different, or at cross purposes. To feel nationally powerful, local groups need a connection to a national campaign -- and to grow, local groups need a constant evangelist.

The great missed opportunity of 2004 was the failure of every major leader and leadership group to embrace and nurture the capacity of local groups of volunteer activists to form ongoing face-to-face organizing cells using the Internet. The Bush campaign did this using churches, but no group embraced the unique power of the net to do the same thing.

It will never be as good as it was in 2003, nor will it be as hopeful. Still, I think we must return to Meetups and rediscover their tremendous and still untapped power. Specifically, helping to grow and organize our two national Meetups, Democratic Party Meetups and Democracy for America Meetups, should become a priority for all major blogs and for all major Party Committees (DSCC, DCCC, DNC state parties). We will never rebuild the party unless we try and rebuild it everywhere. We will never find out who we are as a party unless we meet ourselves. Meetup can help us achieve both goals. Sign up, or RSVP, for your local Democratic Party Meetup and your local Democracy for America Meetup today. Dare not just to hope, but to act.

Release the Unweighted Exit Poll Data

Personally, I find researching this issue more than a little dizzying. One of the few times that my writing on this blog broke through to into the mainstream was over the issue of poll weighting by Party ID. The issue, first raised by Bush strategist Mathew Dowd in June, gained such force nationally that on three separate occasions, people I know asked me what I thought about "Gallup polling too many Republicans," or something to that effect. These were people who had never read a blog in their lives and had no idea I was personally playing a role in the controversy. Major polling organizations, such as Pew and Gallup, even issued press releases arguing against weighting by Party ID.

Further, what really sent traffic at MyDD skyrocketing, was when Jerome posted early exit results on Election Day. He told me over the phone that the exits were unweighted, but that didn't stop me from running around to the precincts in my neighborhood telling the volunteer I had met earlier in the day the good news. Apparently, as a final, painful irony, it was our own hopes that were raised and then dashed as a result of an unweighted poll... or were they?

After the election, exit polls and poll weighting remain highly controversial. The problem is simple: exit polls are rarely (if ever) divergent from the tabulated election results, but in this case they clearly were. However, those interested in investigating this discrepancy are unable to properly do so, because the public only has access to the post-election, re-weighted version of exit polls. These new exit polls are not divergent with the tabulated results, because they were re-weighted to match the final results.

Now, there is nothing wrong with re-weighting the exit polls after an election to match the final results. As Mark Blumenthal notes:

As regular readers of this site know, NEP weights (or adjusts) the exit polls so that their tabulations of vote preference match reality. This is a long-time standard practice for the national network exit polls. This is fine. The problem comes in when one wishes to examine the discrepancy between the unweighted Election Day exit polls and the final results. Not only is this the discrepancy that is at the source of the controversy, the unweighted exits are also not available to the public. Thus, interested parties have no means of examining this highly unusual discrepancy.

The two best articles I have found on this subject come from the already linked Blumenthal at Mystery Pollster and UPenn professor Steven Freeman. Both come to a similar conclusion. While charges of election fraud based on a discrepancy between exit polls and tabulated results are premature, the discrepancy is unusual enough and the subject matter important enough that the complete unweighted data and methodology must be released for further investigation. To again quote from Blumenthal:

Attention Keith Olbermann!: You want to "continue to cover [voting angst] with all prudent speed?" Excellent. Here is one piece of the puzzle you can help solve. The good news is, you don't need to find some "Deep Throat" informant or submit a Freedom of Information Act request. Just call up NBC's polling director and ask. OK, true, you may need to convince a few colleagues at the other networks to do the same. Nonetheless, the networks own and control the NEP exit poll data, so I'm sure they'll gladly help "debunk" this controversy by making the relevant data available. Right? Indeed. While we as a Party have a lot of important work to tackle, right now this work is certainly of importance. We must put pressure on the networks to release their data if there is any hope of removing the cloud of suspicion hanging over this issue. Be polite and contact them about this today. Remember, the networks are supposed to be serving the public interest, or else they would not have any rights to use public airwaves. Clearly, this is an issue that falls under the domain of the public interest, and as such this is information that should be available to everyone.


Advertise Blogads